Skin cancer prevention

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in New Zealand and we have the highest rates of melanoma skin cancer in the world.

The good news is that most melanoma skin cancers are preventable by reducing excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation via the sun or sunbeds. 

To encourage more SunSmart behaviours we work directly with the public, as well as sports and recreation organisations and councils.

Our goal - reduce the incidence and impact of skin cancer.

Facts about sun safety

  • New Zealand and Australia have the highest melanoma incidence rates in the world.
  • Skin cancer costs the health system more to treat than any other form of cancer. The health care costs of skin cancer have been estimated at about $57 million per year.
  • In 2013, melanoma was the leading cancer among males aged 25-44, while it was the second most common amongst females aged 25-44.
  • It has been estimated that, for every death from skin cancer, an average of 17.4 potential years of life are lost.
  • Although Māori and Pacific people have a lower chance of getting melanoma, they often have thicker, more serious melanomas.

Skin Cancer Reported

  • Skin cancers in New Zealand account for approximately 67,000 new cases a year, compared to around 16,000 for all other new cancer registrations.
  • In 2013, melanoma was the fourth most commonly registered (reported) cancer with 2,366 registered cases.
  • Of those registered, 42 were Māori (16 males and 26 females).

Skin Cancer Deaths

  • In 2013, there were 489 deaths from skin cancer (320 males and 169 females). Of these, 356 deaths were from melanoma and 133 deaths from non-melanoma cancer.
  • Melanoma was the fourth most common cause of death from cancer in men and seventh in women, in 2013.
  • In 2013 10 Māori died from skin cancer (6 males and 4 females).

On a positive note

  • Melanoma rates for people under 40 appear to be levelling off, implying that sun safety programmes are beginning to work.

What does HPA do?

Our sun safety work increases:

  • individual knowledge, attitudes and behaviours that protect from excessive exposure to ultraviolet radiation (from the sun and solaria)
  • environmental and policy support to protect people from excessive ultraviolet radiation, especially among local authorities (city, town and district councils), specific sporting organisations, and primary healthcare organisations
  • the quality and effectiveness of sun safety messages.

To achieve these, we work with media outlets (television, radio, print), councils, regional sports trusts and other sports organisations, community groups, and the skin cancer control sector to both support their work and help deliver consistent messages across the country.

Find out more

To find out more about our work in this area check out:

International research

IARC Working Group Solar and UV radiation report

Solar and ultraviolet radiation were considered by a previous International Agency for Research Centre (IARC) Working Group in 1992. Since that time, new data have become available. These have been incorporated into this Monograph and taken in to consideration in the present evaluation.

Read the Monograph...